What do Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles, young Leo DiCaprio and Brendan Fraser in The Mummy have in common? They all have effortlessly charming, almost greasy-looking hair, sure. But more importantly, they are all men with haircuts that have made queer and lesbian women question their sexuality long after they thought that question was answered.
I know this because I am that woman. And Timothée Chalamet’s hair is that haircut.
I’m obsessed with TC’s hair because of course I am. His genius mop on a well chiselled face has made me seriously wonder if I’m attracted to him. This is not the first time it’s happened – when I was younger, Hugh Grant and Gerard Way had me sincerely believing I was straight; as recently as two years ago, I went through what I can only call a Harry Styles 'phase' (damn those Gucci suits). But while I can appreciate they’re all attractive and talented in their own ways, I’m not actually into any of them. What I am attracted to, and I can’t emphasise this enough, is Timmy's delightful head of hair. When The Cut declared that his is the 'it' cut among queer women right now, I thought, Duh.
But what is it about TC’s hair (seen at its most TC in the red suit in November 2017) that lesbians (aka me) love so much? And how has this unwashed, messy 'do genuinely made me think, Maybe I’m actually bi? (For clarity, I’m not.) It’s the classic lesbian conundrum – 'Do I want them or do I want to be them?' – made all the more complicated by being atop a man’s head.
To find out the answer, I bit the bullet and got it for myself.
Ever since I came out and learned the terminology, I’ve identified as femme. By that I mean I’ve embraced the femininity I once rejected as an integral part of my identity, one that is constantly queered through my lived experience. This means I’ve never had The Haircut so many other queer women have where, I’m told, it feels like you’re freeing yourself from the shackles of enforced femininity and heterosexuality. The closest I’ve come is at 19, when I replicated the semi-neat bob I had in preschool. I did it myself with kitchen scissors in the sink of my tiny uni room. Cutting my hair short, or off completely, never felt right for me.
Equally, I’ve primarily been attracted to women who aren’t femme; women with shorn hair aesthetics that sit between what mainstream fashion views as 'androgynous' and butchness. While the world at large may not, I love and cherish non-normative womanhood in all its presentations and, for me at least, a lot of how that manifests comes down to hair.
Walking to the site of my transformation (the wonderful Chop-Chop in Old Street – can highly recommend), I thought about how we have gendered hair. Hair is inherently genderless, yet we have strict understandings of styles. While trends come and go, what is seen as the Man’s Man™ haircut is something short and controlled. On the other end of the spectrum, Womanly Hair™ is long and loose. The deliberately messy, slightly-too-long haircuts on very conventionally attractive men are distinct because they sit in the middle, toying with a femininity rarely seen (let alone celebrated) in cis, primarily straight men.
After 40 minutes or so in a hairdressing chair, I feel like I’m coming from the other direction – I’m suddenly toying with a masculinity I’ve always been drawn to, but never embodied before. I love it. I don’t recognise myself. I feel confused by my own reflection but not in a way I want to reject. I spend the next few hours with friends from work who all love it (like… a lot. Maybe they fancy me?), nervously tousling and fiddling with it, waiting for one of them to drop the polite facade and tell me it doesn’t suit me. None of them does.
The next day I try and find my feet in this same-same but different body. I dig deep in my wardrobe to find what my friends and I dubbed the Call Me By Your Name shirt, which feels appropriate. I keep looking at myself in the mirror. One minute I look like Elaine the Pain from Tracy Beaker, the next, KD Lang. Then it's Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. For one short, hopeful moment, I think I look like Chris from Christine & The Queens. I feel equal parts confident and shy, like I’m masquerading as someone I want to be.
I’m still getting used to it. It was a strangely significant leap for me, to visibly go from comfortably femme to something a bit more, well, gay. And I somehow thought it would transform into being curly, shiny and reckless. My hair is not that powerful – it's definitely not 'once-in-a-generation'.
TC’s hair isn't really the 'it' cut for winter, it’s just that people have noticed a particular instance of something lesbians and queer women more broadly have been doing with their hair for years. The heartthrob haircut is just the most celebrated example of the effortful effortlessness that reads as soft and romantic but also too cool/hot/busy writing poetry/playing in a shitty band to care. It’s very, very dyke camp. And obsessing over it is the closest I’ve got to sincerely taking part in a cultural conversation that normally passes me by, one reserved for girls (straight) and gays (male). But it’s also literally just a haircut that I’m reading too much into – and I love it.